Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Do We Like Your Characters?

One of the things I look for in submissions are characters the reader can connect with. When we read a story we want to feel what the characters are feeling and go through the emotional roller coaster they are on. But here is the problem. I often see characters that readers simply cannot connect with. In some of those cases, it is simply the fact that the characters is unlikable.

One of the biggest issues I see are characters who are doing unethical things. Yes, I understand ethics and morality is a personal issue, but it is going to play a role for many readers. One that I see more often than not is the cheating hero or heroine. Sometimes, the writer has set up the husband cheating on the wife. This is a pretty common trope. So far, I am not overly worried about this since we are setting the husband up as being a "bad guy." But here is where things fall apart. Instead of getting the wife out of the situation, the writer has the wife having an affair with some hot guy. Partially to fulfill that emotional void left by the husband, but also to get even.

It is the motivation for doing this that becomes the problem. I get that the wife is mad. I get that the husband is not there for her. But, when the author has just set up that cheating is not right, trying to justify the same behavior is not going to work here.

Another situation I see is in the character development. If I have a character who is always complaining or whining about something, becomes annoying. We don't want to be around people like that in real life, so why would we want a character to do this, especially if it is the hero or heroine. The same goes for the ruthless and tough business hero. I don't care how hot he can be, if the guy is a jerk, the reader will spend more time thinking of reasons to dump the guy then to get him hooked up with the heroine.

You can create unique characters, but there has to be something appealing about this person. I always ask authors, is this someone you would want to invite to your house and hang out with? If not, you might want to work on that.

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